Well, we made it through 2020. The ball has dropped in Times Square, New York. Clocks struck midnight, and here we are in 2021. And, it doesn’t feel a whole lot different than it did in 2020.
COVID-19 positive cases have surged, and the daily number of positives fluctuates daily across the country as of this writing. Face mask protocols are still in place nationwide, and local economies continue to be impacted. So although we made it through 2020, I’m not actually sure what that means, since much of what impacted us last year is still in place.
There is still no real “return to normalcy,” and the “new norm” is a constantly moving target. At the end of last year, we covered the outlook for 2021, and this month’s FAMA Forum provides more data to help us figure out where we’re headed this year. Meanwhile, fires still happen, vehicles still crash, and health emergencies still require emergency medical services. In that way, it’s business as usual for us. We’ll respond when called to mitigate whatever is in front of us. The expectation that when we arrive on scene our customers are going to get the highest level of service on their darkest days will not change. As it turns out, face masks, wiping down cab interiors when we get back from a run, digital training solutions, digital truck inspections, etc. haven’t really impacted the day-to-day objectives of our mission.
Apropos of nothing in particular, I was thinking of a conversation I had with another “Crew dad” who is a career firefighter. We were waiting for our sons to come down the river during a regatta. He’s on a ladder company, and I was talking to him about his department and whether or not he liked engine company work or truck company work. I mean, if it was me, just the fact that he gets to operate a tiller would make that answer an easy one. In fact, he did say truck work—but not because of the tiller aspect. He said he was basically still doing what he did as a kid living in the city, and you could tell he was loving the job as much today as when he started.
We all know someone who’s in a funk, who doesn’t seem to love the job as much anymore. There are some in the fire service who will pigeonhole these firefighters into being miserable and “what’s wrong with the fire service today.” Personally, I think there’s a lot less wrong with the fire service today morale-wise than many think. There are very specific issues that we have to tackle including cancer, mental health, old vs. new, etc. But, being in a funk doesn’t make a person a representation for what’s wrong in the fire service today. Seems to me what’s wrong is the people who put each other into categories. For 2021, let’s just all try to love the job like we did when we joined up.
I’m not normally a “here’s what’s in this issue” kind of writer, but I do want to call your attention to a solution for what has become all too normal for us these days: rigs getting hit at incident scenes. Yep, it’s 2021, and this is still an issue. Our cover story this month takes a look at one department’s solution to protect firefighters at the scene. Yes, they’re still called blocking trucks, but they are augmented blocking trucks with traffic management attenuators attached. What’s more, the rigs are still in service as fire apparatus. They are still carrying water, hose, etc. It’s another way of not only repurposing rigs set to retire but of creating a safer environment for our firefighters on the scene of a highway incident. Our fire apparatus are still getting hit too often when they aren’t moving. Unfortunately, it’s becoming more the norm than not. So, take a look. It’s not a solution for every fire department, but it’s an evolution of the blocker truck concept, and it should at least get the wheels turning. And, it could go a long way toward ensuring that we all make it through 2021.